Xander and Mercedes both know firsthand what it feels like to be in total control. The question is... who really holds all of the power?
Xander Boone has never had a problem going after what he wants. In fact, he has built his life around doing just that. And he has a rather impressive track record. But Xander finds himself up against his biggest challenge yet.
As fate would have it, Xander’s greatest desire is a woman who has always been off limits to him. One he wants more than his next breath. Nothing about her is easy, but then again, things that are worth it never are.
So, when the perfect opportunity presents itself, Xander knows it’s time to call in a favor.
Mercedes Bryant believes there is only one way to do something. She also knows what Xander wants isn’t possible. But she‘s about to learn that you shouldn’t always believe what you think you see.
And Xander is going to be the one to teach her that lesson.
Damn, I love this book so much. No doubt anymore this is beyond 5++++ STARS!
PERCEPTION (CLUB DESTINY, 8) - PROLOGUE
Nine Years Ago…
Xander exited the elevator on the third floor after a painfully long ride in what could very easily be referred to as a death trap. Seriously, getting to the third floor shouldn’t have taken that long. What the hell?
As he stepped out into the dimly lit area, he glanced around at the well-kept, yet drastically outdated furnishings of a small, two room office. Not only was it drab and dark, it had a musty smell, like there was a water leak somewhere that had never been fixed.
Why in the hell did anyone work in a place like this? He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but this certainly wasn’t it.
Less than impressed, he tried to pretend not to notice. He was there to meet one of his closest friends, Shane Gibson, who had been raving about a real estate agent who was rapidly making a name for herself. He wasn’t going in for a design consultation. Thank God.
Based on the office that this up-and-comer worked out of, Xander was having difficulty seeing her success, but he hadn’t met her yet, so he refrained from passing judgment.
Xander had no idea how Shane had come to meet Mercedes Bryant, the Realtor who clearly needed a new office, but he didn’t necessarily need to know either. He was in the market for property, his friend believed she could assist him, nothing else really mattered.
According to Shane, Mercedes specialized in commercial properties, and she’d been referred to as aggressive and emphatic. Based on her office building, Xander was inclined to believe that wet behind the ears could probably be added to the list of adjectives used to describe her.
Following the sound of voices coming from the only other room in the place, Xander stopped just outside of the open door and waited for them to acknowledge him.
“What’s up, man?” Shane greeted him pleasantly when he looked over from his seat across from an incredibly beautiful woman. “Xander Boone, I’d like you to meet Mercedes Bryant.”
Xander ignored the strange smirk on the man’s lips.
“Very nice to meet you, Mercedes,” Xander greeted the well-dressed woman who rose from her chair and walked around her desk as he entered the office. A few steps into the small room, he was standing directly in front of her, extending his hand out for her to shake. “Shane,” he tacked on with a nod of his head toward his friend.
No, Xander wasn’t at all impressed with her choice of offices, but he certainly approved of Mercedes’s appearance. Dressed in a pair of black slacks, a crisp white shirt with the top two buttons left undone, her shiny black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail while small gems twinkled in her ears, the woman exuded professionalism. Not to mention sex appeal.
So maybe she looked like she worked for the FBI with the fact that she lacked any color in her wardrobe, but he had to admit that the contrast between that white shirt and her black hair was striking. And her eyes. An intense gray that seemed to peruse slowly over him, leaving a trail of heat in their wake.
When Mercedes took his hand, he swore he felt an electrical current shoot through his arm. Her grip was firm and confident, her hand soft and smooth. An incredible combination, if you asked him.
There was no denying he was physically attracted to the woman.
“Likewise,” she responded in a smoky tone that Xander’s entire body responded to.
“Xander’s looking to purchase that overhauled warehouse you were telling me about,” Shane stated after clearing his throat.
“I wouldn’t go that far just yet.” He glanced over at Shane and then back to Mercedes. “However, I’d like to take a look at it, if you don’t mind,” Xander added as he continued to watch her.
“Do you have time now?” Mercedes asked, surprising him.
“I do. Shall I follow you?”
“No, I’ll drive. That way we can talk on the way.”
“I’ve, uh… got a meeting to run to,” Shane interrupted, his eyes darting between the two of them. “But I’ll catch up with you later,” he told Mercedes, his hand gently touching her arm. “And you,” he said to Xander, “I’ll talk to you this afternoon.”
Xander nodded to Shane, not saying a word.
A minute later, Xander was following Mercedes out into the brilliant morning sunshine. Had he not been so drawn to the woman leading the way, he might’ve noticed there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. But as it was, he was mesmerized by the way the sun shone off of her black hair, giving it a vibrant blue tint.
As they made their way over to the fancy black BMW sitting in the parking lot, Xander did his best to keep his eyes focused on where they were going, but he couldn’t seem to look away from her.
Shitty office. Nice clothes. Expensive car.
The combination confused him.
“Shane told me you’re a property developer,” Mercedes said, glancing over her shoulder as she continued to walk, her heels clicking on the eroded asphalt of the parking lot.
“I dabble here and there,” he answered ruefully. He did more than that, but he didn’t feel the need to explain himself.
There was no doubt she’d just noticed he was staring at her ass. If it had bothered her in the least, he couldn’t tell.
“Yes, that’s what I’ve heard,” she said with a mischievous smirk.
He liked her already.
When Mercedes unlocked the doors to the small car using the key fob she clutched tightly in her hand, Xander climbed inside, ducking so that he didn’t hit his head on the roof. He hated little cars. With a passion.
“How do you know Shane?” he asked as she got situated, buckling her seat belt. Xander was attempting to do the same. Attempt was a rather loose interpretation of it too. As it was, he had to hunch over, crook his head sideways and then reach for the buckle without looking down. Damn little cars.
“I met him a couple of months ago. I’m in the market to rent a new office building. I called on a listing, and he answered the phone,” she told him as she started the car, put it in Reverse and began backing out of the parking space.
Xander knew Shane was following in Xander’s footsteps as far as property development went, but Shane was starting out slow. He was interested in residential, not so much commercial. The man had recently purchased a couple of buildings and was looking to rent them as office space. Xander, on the other hand, had taken the fast track in both commercial development as well as venture capital investments, and he attributed his success to his aggressiveness.
“This place is not doing it for you anymore?” he asked, nodding toward the building they were passing as she headed out of the parking lot.
Mercedes glanced over at him, pinning him in place with her stare. “Everyone has to start somewhere, Mr. Boone.”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t implying –”
“Yes you were.” She laughed gruffly. “And I happen to agree. But, I did have to start somewhere.”
When Mercedes turned her attention back on the road, Xander fought the urge to squirm in his seat. Definitely time to change the subject.
“Tell me more about the warehouse. Shane didn’t know much. Just that it’s somewhere close to a hundred thousand square feet. True?”
“Yes, give or take a few.” She drove the same way that she walked, with sexy precision. He found himself transfixed by the way her hand maneuvered the stick shift. “The building went up in 1967 and has seen quite a few tenants over the years. The current owner’s been leasing it out for approximately fifteen years now. The current asking price is two point four mil.”
Mercedes glanced over at him briefly, and he had to wonder whether she was checking his reaction to the price. If she were waiting for something, she wasn’t going to get it. The price was incredibly low, even he knew that much.
“What did the last tenant use it for?” he asked.
“From what I understand, it was used as a call center.”
Xander intended to lease the building out as soon as he acquired it. Maybe he’d hang onto it for a few years then let it go for the right price. He knew without a doubt that he could get a tenant in there rather quickly, but he decided to question Mercedes. “If I need to find a tenant, can you handle that as well?”
“I can’t,” she told him matter-of-factly. “However, I do have a friend who can get me the name of a good leasing agent. I’ll get more information, and I’ll make an introduction.”
Xander definitely liked her. She wasn’t just looking to pass him along to someone else. And maybe that was because he was ready to purchase a two million dollar property, and she was more interested in the commission. He didn’t know for sure. But he did get the feeling that he could trust her to follow through.
A solid fifteen minutes later, Mercedes was pulling through an electronic gate that had seen better days. Rusted and hanging by the hinges on one side, Xander didn’t doubt that it was out of commission, which explained why it had been propped open.
He noted the eight foot stone wall that ran around the perimeter of the parking area and then back around behind the building. Interesting. They were in a light industrial area, but he knew the crime rate wasn’t high because he’d done some preliminary research. He figured the original owner must’ve thought the wall added something.
Aside from making it look like a prison, it didn’t hold any appeal whatsoever.
But Xander wasn’t going to say anything. He didn’t give a shit if the place were surrounded by land mines. The price was right, and if the building wasn’t going to fall in on itself, he knew it’d be a damn good investment.
And at this point that was all that mattered.
Mercedes pulled into one of the partially striped parking spots right near the front doors of the vacant building. She was doing her best to focus on the road and not on the intimidating man crammed in her car.
She had struggled to hold in her laugh when he somehow managed to squeeze his gigantic body into her small car. And then again when he somehow managed to get the seatbelt on. No wonder he’d offered to follow her. Then again, he had been a good sport because if she’d been in his shoes, she wouldn’t have attempted to fold herself into such a small space. As it was, his neck was at an odd angle.
Definitely a good sport.
But, despite his discomfort, they had made it. Thank God. She was about to get a chance to breathe fresh air, rather than the subtle, sultry scent of what she could only assume was expensive cologne. The man smelled amazing, but she damn sure didn’t want him to know she thought so.
Xander Boone was everything Shane had described him as being. Tall, confident, straight-forward. And blunt, as she’d learned by his less than discreet reference to the dilapidated building she currently worked out of. Too bad Shane hadn’t bothered to add that Xander was also ruggedly handsome and a tad on the intimidating side.
Not that she was going to let the last bother her. She could hold her own.
Climbing out of the car, she headed to the glass doors. Using the key she’d had to pick up that morning, she gained entrance and held the door open for Xander. To her surprise, he merely glared at her, placing his hand above her head and holding the door open.
“Ladies first,” he told her with a grin that gave her a glimpse of straight white teeth.
“Thank you,” she answered, trying not to smile back at him and failing.
Once inside, Mercedes did her best to stay out of his way. There wasn’t much she could show him, and he wouldn’t have to go far to see everything. The warehouse was huge, without a lot of walls. Not to mention in desperate need of some cosmetic surgery.
That was an easy fix, and if what Shane had told her was true, Xander wouldn’t be bothered by a few blemishes.
So, she stood back, watching him move around the warehouse.
She was drawn to him, just as she had been when he’d stepped through her office door. But she realized after just one glimpse that she shouldn’t be drawn to him. They were too much alike.
Just that morning, while she had waited for Xander to arrive, she’d dared to ask Shane a little more about the mystery client who was coming to see her.
“He’s a Dom,” Shane had told her.
Interesting. “Does he belong to the same club you do?” she had inquired, hoping to sound casual. Shane had informed her that he was a member of Kink, an opulent BDSM club she’d heard about, but had never visited.
Mercedes belonged to a club, but she hadn’t bothered to mention that to Shane. She’d been surprised to find out Shane was a Dom in the first place, and still hadn’t produced the nerve to question him more even though she was intrigued.
“Yeah. He’s the one who got me in there.”
Yep, that’s about all she learned about Xander Boone. Well, other than what the Google search had offered her. He wasn’t just a Dom. He was a rich Dom. A very successful, rich, Dom.
Which meant he was off limits.
And that was a good thing because the man’s charisma was palpable, and when he turned those sexy, moss green eyes on her, had she been any other woman, she might’ve swooned.
She wasn’t the swooning type.
“I want to know how serious the owner is to sell,” Xander stated firmly as he made his way toward her. “There’re quite a few things that have to be done to this place to get it up to code.”
Ok, so the man definitely wasn’t new to this.
“I can ask.”
“I prefer to tell,” he told her as he approached. “I’ll list out the issues because I do want to make an offer. I assure you, it’ll be fair.”
Mercedes nodded her head as she watched him. Yes, she certainly could see his dominating personality. It was prominent, yet somehow not terribly overbearing. If that were even the right word to use to describe a man who stood at least six and a half feet tall and was built like the defensive line of a football team. The whole freaking line.
“So what do you say? We’ll go back to your office and get things started?”
Although he’d kindly phrased it as a question, Mercedes got the distinct impression that he was informing her, not asking.
Mercedes was speechless.
For the first time in her entire life, she didn’t know what to say. And that was saying something because not only was she a damn good real estate agent, she was also a formidable Domme.
One who, from this moment on, knew she could easily like this man.
As a friend. And nothing more.